The mission of In-Q-Tel, which launched in 1999 after a decade when technology innovators were more interested in the green of Silicon Valley than the red, white, and blue of Washington, D.C., is to foster the development of new and emerging information technologies and pursue research and development that produce solutions to some of the most difficult IT problems facing the CIA. It was a classic case of, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. In-Q-Tel set up offices in Washington, D.C., and Menlo Park, Calif. The CIA decided early on that In-Q-Tel would work on unclassified IT projects for the agency. Meanwhile, to attract the interests of the private sector, In-Q-Tel principally invested in technologies where there was both an agency need and private-sector interest.
A4Vision's success in developing 3-D facial-recognition technology moves the company forward while benefiting the intelligence community, says In-Q-Tel principal Lisa Rutherford. "In-Q-Tel sees the application of that technology beyond the facial-recognition market," she adds.
Indeed, In-Q-Tel has an interest in different ways three-dimensional images can be digitized and mined for intelligence purposes. "We live in a world that has more than two dimensions," Rutherford notes.
In February, In-Q-Tel signed a research agreement with Arizona State University's Partnership for Research in Spatial Modeling to support the development of the school's 3-D handwriting-recognition and document-segmentation technology. The success of this work could provide the intelligence community with greater access to software that recognizes and automatically separates mixed graphical, print, and handwritten content for search, retrieval, and cataloging.
What separates In-Q-Tel apart from other Silicon Valley VCs is its ability to introduce new technology directly into its intelligence-community user base. In-Q-Tel is a private company working exclusively for the CIA and the intelligence community, although it is not part of the CIA, nor is it a government agency.
What's your stance on government-funded IT development and its applicability to the business world? Are 3-D technologies relevant to your industry?